Quick notes, so I don't forget what happened when. I went out into the other hive today, the one that didn't get combined with the marked queen-hive, to see what was going on. The bees have been crowding the entrance board lately, and I was wondering what was up. Apologies to those of you who just don't care; I tend to forget later on and wonder what is up with the hives, so getting it down while the memory is fresh is important. I also don't have any pictures of this part -- it's difficult to take my own, and I couldn't talk any of the children, sick or well, into wielding a camera for posterity.
So, I pulled off the honey super and set it aside to deal with later. The top deep brood box was full-to-boiling with bees, and I set it aside. It was very very heavy, and I lifted it on top of my work area, the small chicks' coop. Ugh.
Then, frame by frame, I went through the bottom box. Lots of drone brood, but not completely drone brood. Just. . . a lot. Also, a sealed queen cell. I don't know if they're planning to swarm or what, so I left it. I've never seen any of them sealed, just usually post-exit. This may have been a mistake. I don't know. This box was also stuffed to the brim with bees. Many bees. Bees who weren't thrilled about me doing this. I pulled one frame that was all capped drone brood, built on a non-foundation comb. That frame got set aside to give to the imprisoned hens for later.
It also got replaced with one empty frame of deep foundation comb. It looks as though this nest needs expansion space, as every frame except one half-finished honey is brood or capped brood.
Slapped a cover on that box, and did the same routine with the second brood box. Lots of brood, but not a perfect laying pattern. Just -- brood. This level had the "rainbow' of honey and pollen that the bees store over the laying nest, to feed the growing brood. Couple of open queen cells, and that was it. I may have found a new frame for this one, too, but I'm not sure of that.
Then, last, the honey super. Whee! Honey, I thought. And there was a LOT of nicely-drawn comb. Just pretty stuff. However, there were also many sealed brood cells in the middle of these frames! A queen has been wandering into my honey super. I was indignant. I've never used a queen excluder, because, quite frankly, the bees have been so loath to draw comb up there I didn't want to do anything to discourage them. However, it was right there, so I snatched it up and put it on the top brood box, then I thought. What if the queen (remember, this one isn't marked) is in that super right now?
So I went through and shook every frame clear of bees, over the brood box, after lifting up the excluder. If she was up there, she should be in the bottom. If she wasn't, I just offended half a hive of worker bees who were already unhappy with my ministrations. Put the super back, and then I took an empty deep I had with open comb, and put it on top. If they store honey up there, it will be a lot. If they don't, no harm done.
Why did I have empty comb, you ask?
Because last night, this beauty came to visit.
I borrowed it from the bee club. Complete with warming cable, which makes evening extracting more pleasant. I had to borrow it sort of quickly because the ants had found my full-of-honey frames I'd had sitting in my kitchen for a week, dithering about whether or not to purchase an extractor, do crush & strain, or borrow one. Once they had formed a wide column of happy ants, I realized I couldn't wait much more. Fortunately, this one was open. $10 gets you three days with a nice extractor and some accessories. One of the benefits of belonging to a group like this.
The beautiful comb looked like this. The capping knife swept through, leaving a bunch of honey behind and dropping the drippy cappings into my straining bag. Not all the comb was this pretty or this amenable to slicing, however. For the wonky comb, I have a cappings scratcher:
I could go through and get the caps off of the honey, leaving the open comb or the weirdly-shaped comb behind. This is the kind of frame I returned to the bees today.
Spinning the extractor has its pleasures. I particularly enjoyed getting some help. The kids were all either asleep or out at a class. Just me, the extractor, and my honey. Heeeee. This is actually true love, because Eric doesn't care for honey and hates being sticky (notice the hand carefully in the pocket. No honey for him, thanks). Fun machine, though.
Because he was willing to crank, I got to see the honey being flung out of the comb. It never seems like much at a time, but it does add up.
Finally, I opened the gate at the bottom. Honey and scratched wax came rolling out like a golden river of goodness.
The double filter took out the wax bits, any bee parts, any big clumps of pollen, and any ants that had made it through. The bottom barrel also had a spigot, so when it was all done, I filled up eight of these.
At current prices, jars like this are going for about $14 each (actually for a little less weight) so we bottled at least $112 worth of honey, if I want to keep that record. If it was by pound, the amount goes up to about $140. I have always said that beekeeping is the food activity that breaks even fastest here. That would be even more true with a good harvest. Maybe later this year. For now, I have eight jars where before I had none, and I've learned another skill.
State of the Garden : : December
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